United States special operations target crisis situations — whether natural disasters, civil wars, or terrorist attacks.  Special operators engage in risky, Hollywood-ready adventures, hunting down terrorists and militants in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. They also do less glamorous but vital aid work, such as providing food and water to hurricane victims in Haiti.

This Medill National Security Journalism Initiative project, which involved six months of research and reporting in the U.S. and abroad, provides detailed information and a worldwide map of special operations the U.S. has conducted since 2001, with particular attention to the missions in progress as of the end of 2010. The goal:  provide an overview for journalists and journalism students of this essential but poorly understood section of the American military.